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Four girls sue Anaheim school district, alleging its negligence allowed two water polo coaches to sexually abuse them

She was 16 years old when assistant water polo coach Joshua Owens, whom she met at Kennedy High School in La Palma, molested her.

But he wouldn’t be the only man to abuse her at the school, the girl’s attorney, Morgan Stewart, said. Another water polo coach, Barham Hojreh, is also accused of sexually abusing her.

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The girl is one of four former student athletes who sued the Anaheim Union High School District on Tuesday, accusing it of ignoring signs the coaches were molesting the girls they trained at Kennedy High.

Last week, Owens was convicted of sexually assaulting three teenage girls, including a then 15-year-old in 2014 and 2015. Horjeh is awaiting trial on charges that he molested seven girls from 2014 to 2018.

“Here we have two sexual predators operating at a single school, both coaches in the school’s water polo program. That cannot be coincidental and clearly shows a failure at the administrative level,” Stewart said.

Stewart’s law firm filed two lawsuits, one naming Hojreh and the school district and the other naming Owens and the school district. The suit against Hojreh also named his club team and USA Water Polo.

“It is a truly horrific example of the failure of adults to protect children from the predators that lurk in youth sports,” Stewart said.

The suits allege that the district and water polo officials concealed from the victims’ parents and police the fact that girls were or may have been sexually abused, harassed and molested by the coaches.

The school district issued a statement Wednesday saying it could not address the specifics in the lawsuits, but it is committed to the safety of all its students. “The District takes these allegations very seriously and has undertaken the appropriate remedial measures,” the statement said. “The actions by these two former employees do not represent the District nor what the District stands for.”

Hojreh, who garnered a reputation for coaching Olympic prospects at the International Water Polo Club in Los Alamitos, is facing 22 felony counts, including sexual battery and sexual penetration with a foreign object.

The 42-year-old walk-on coach was charged in April and accused of abusing the girls from September 2014 to January 2018. Four of his alleged victims were under age 15 at the time of the alleged crimes.

Hojreh has pleaded not guilty, and his attorney has maintained he is wrongly accused after three decades with an impeccable reputation.

He was suspended from his regional board position with USA Water Polo in January after the organization learned of the allegations against him.

Los Alamitos police began to investigate Hojreh after two of his alleged victims told their parents, who called Orange County Child Protective Services.

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According to the lawsuit, Hojreh sexually harassed and assaulted three girls ages 14 to 16 while coaching them at the International Water Polo Club.

Owens is alleged to have sexually assaulted one of the same girls abused by Hojreh as well as other girls while coaching them at Kennedy High School.

Last week, Owens pleaded guilty to two felony counts of oral copulation and sexual penetration and six misdemeanor counts of child annoyance involving three girls. The girls were ages 14 to 16 at the time of assaults from September 2014 to April 2015. Owens was sentenced to six months in jail.

3 p.m. Sept. 5: This story was updated with a statement from the school district.

The story was originally published at 8:45 p.m. Sept. 4

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